[Note: Title changed in order to more accurately reflect Jack’s views.]
Over at Ethics Alarms, Jack wrote a post about John Kerry’s lies (short form: Kerry lies about having been against invading Iraq, lied about being Irish, plus the typical right-wing attacks on Kerry’s opposition to US war crimes in Vietnam). None of which interests me much – Kerry DID lie about Iraq and Irish, after all. Plus Kerry has hardly endeared himself to me lately by pounding the Syria drum, although his Mr. Magooing into a plausible diplomatic solution was sort of endearing.
I entered the thread because Jack in passing said Kerry was Jewish (he isn’t), which caught my interest. One thing led to another, and now we’re arguing about the term “undocumented immigrant” versus “illegal alien,” and I pretty much have no idea why.
Jack made the illegal-aliens-did-something-contemptable argument, which is a common enough argument so I thought it was worth bringing my response over here.
Re: “Contemptible.” It’s obviously not always contemptible to break the law. Otherwise, audiences would have contempt for Jean Valjean, rather than hoping he escapes from Javert. History and literature are both full of examples of people who broke unjust laws, and were still admirable, from the folks who ran the underground railroad, to LGB people who broke anti-gay laws, to stories like Mulan and Yentl. There is much more to morality than “obey the law “.
And our immigration laws are unjust; they are unfairly restrictive compared to the number of people our economy will inevitably bring in to work, and unreasonably make it illegal for people to earn a living through honest work that harms none. A law that tells a person to sit at home and watch their kids starve rather than go where there is work that is productive, socially beneficial, and will let them earn a living is an immoral law. Breaking such a law is not contemptible.
There is no law more firmly written in our character as humans, than the law that says we must eat and feed our family. I’m not going to hold a farm worker in contempt for doing that, and you shouldn’t either.
As I wrote that last paragraph, I thought “someone’s going to accuse me of making an appeal to objective morality.” I’ll head that off by pointing out that I specifically appealed to human character, not to a morality with extrahuman sources. My point is that it is cruel and unjust to order people to obey a law that they are not reasonably able to obey.
Obviously, to get the full flavor of my all-over-the-place (Is Kerry Jewish? Abortion! Immigration! Civility! How do you define right-wing! etc, etc) argument with Jack, you can go read the whole thing there. :-p